We, the undersigned civil society organizations, strongly condemn the gross negligence on the part of institutions related to the establishment of omissions and responsibility for the escape of the former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.
We demand an urgent finish of the investigations, within 10 days, and establishment of responsibility for the omissions, possible failure to take actions or complicity. Otherwise, we shall demand political responsibility from the highest officials. We appeal against undermining Macedonia’s EU perspective, which depends on the rule of law. We remind that the evasion of justice topples citizens’ hope in democracy, something the people fought for years.
To wit, it’s been more than two weeks since we published our our first reaction with which we demanded urgent initiation of investigations and establishment of the factual situation and omissions which made Nikola Gruevski, the most famous convicted offender in the Balkans, the most famous fugitive in the region hungry for justice. The failure to assume any responsibility despite the indications for serious omissions and failure to comply with the provisions of the Law on Execution of Sanctions and the Rulebook on Performance of Police Work on the part of the Basic Court Skopje 1 and the Ministry of Interior, increases the doubts about the lack of willingness for establishing the truth. Thus we reenter the vicious circle of sustaining the culture of impunity.
Since responsibility hasn’t been established three weeks after the escape, we, the undersigned civil society organizations, demand in the following 10 days, i.e. after it’s been a month since the event, answers regarding the developments related to the escape of the convicted offender Nikola Gruevski. Our specific demands and appeals are summarized below.
- The investigations, which are being inadmissibly delayed, thus increase the distrust of citizens in the system, need to be finished urgently. Moreover, procedures must be started for establishing responsibility and imposing sanctions to persons whose omissions, possible failure to act or complicity made the escape possible! If legal responsibility is left out, the culture of impunity would be strengthened which, at a next stage, would lead to our demands for political responsibility of the highest officials heading the institutions whose omissions rendered the escape possible.
- With the omissions, the Ministry of Interior, Agency for Counterintelligence, Public Prosecutor’s Office and other institutions directly undermine the perspectives of the Republic of Macedonia for receiving a date for talks with the European Union in June 2019. The conclusions reached in June this year, unambiguosly point out that the rule of law and the administering of justice are a condition for receiving a date for starting the talks. This makes the EU member states hesitant about the enlargement and they have new counter arguments for the case of Macedonia.
- The evasion of justice on the part of criminals topples the hope of the citizens who are hungry for justice and responsibility. That increases the cynicism and is also the biggest defeat for the restored democratic enthusiasm which led to democratic changes in Macedonia. A functional democracy cannot exist without a hope for changes. Cynicism creates a fertile soil for demagogy, right-wing populism and distrust in democracy. Therefore, the stakes here are much higher than the fate of one high-profile convicted criminal.
Our demands, appeals and conclusions are based on the following analysis.
Apart from the specific indication of the evident omissions, the results of the investigation initiated and led by the Ministry of Interior remain a “secret” that has been sealed by the initiation of a preliminary investigation on the part of the Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office for Organized Crime and Corruption. However, any possible criminal responsibility doesn’t in any manner free the involved in this attack on the legal state from their moral, professional and political responsibility! During the proceedings against Nikola Gruevski, no motion for detention was filed, instead a lighter measure was imposed – seizure of a travel document with the obligation to appear into court. In this regard, the responsibility for the escape of the former Prime Minister can be found at the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the court since they neither demanded nor placed the defendant in detention (the measure is imposed upon the motion of the Public Prosecutor’s Office) making all of this a possible subject to criticism and responsibility if proven that they have had serious and backed information that he is going to flee. Despite the fact that the domestic and international law view the detention as a last resort, with the obligation to leave the defendant unarrested pursuant to the legal principle in dubio pro reo (in dubio pro libertate), the role and significance of Nikola Gruevski and the entire legal and political situation in the country undoubtedly pointed out to the risk of possible escape. This is particularly important since the escape had been well-prepared and according to all information with the complicity of foreign secret services. The opportune information that large amounts of cash had been withdrawn from banks and similar activities that the public found out about give weight to the aforesaid.
Taking all of this into account, the Administration for Security and Counterintelligence, the so called Fifth Administration, was supposed to follow and had to be aware and informed about his whereabouts, plans and contacts as well as develop adequate plans for assessing the security risks and communicate constantly with the Court and the Prosecutor’s Office pursuant thereto. In addition, while securing the state border and controlling the crossing thereof, the police officers undertake measures and gather notifications and data in order to protect the inviolability of the state border, prevent and discover crimes and misdemeanors as well as illegal crossing and capture the perpetrators thereof. As already known, the border crossings had been timely informed that the proceedings against the person Nikola Gruevski are in progress and precaution measures, which prevent him from escaping the country, are imposed.
Taking into account that the factual situation regarding the escape of the former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski isn’t established yet, urgent and thorough investigations are needed which would establish the responsibility for the omissions in the actions taken by the Basic Court Skopje 1 Skopje, Ministry of Interior as well as the Agency for Counterintelligence as to whether the plan for securing Nikola Gruevski had been adhered to and whether actions had been taken in accordance with that plan and the risk assessment too.
First reaction’s note that this is now the fourth person convicted in high-profile criminal proceedings who, due to gross negligence and lack of coordination among judicial and law enforcement authorities, has successfully fled the country confirms the existence of a serious systemic problem. The evasion of serving a prison sentence imposed by means of final and enforceable court ruling by multiple persons, which gives weight to the urgent need to re-examine performance of law enforcement authorities, border control services and judicial authorities. We firmly believe that only by engaging in serious effort to establish the truth it would be possible to ensure full and final delivery of justice, long time due and expected by the citizens, and heavily insisted upon by the undersigned civil society organizations.
Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia
Foundation Open Society – Macedonia
Institute of Democracy “Societas Civilis” – Skopje
Centre for Economic Analyses
Macedonian Young Lawyers’ Association
Citizens’ Association “MOST”
Coalition “All for Fair Trials”
European Policy Institute
Human Rights Institute
Youth Educational Forum